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Why are Educational Toys Important for Children?

All children are natural learners; constantly absorbing new experiences in their everyday lives.

Therefore the toys they play with, play an integral part in this learning process.All children develop at different rates, while some may be walking at 10 months others are still toddling and falling at 15 months. Some children have strong abilities in one field while others are adept at another field. Therefore developmental guidelines should be used as a general rule of thumb.

Nevertheless what every child possesses is a natural curiosity. Babies and children have a natural sponge for learning. How often has your child asked the question ‘why…?’ This early curiosity is the first step to understanding science, nature and the world around us. Therefore a child’s home environment and the toys they play with influence their educational development. Early learning begins at home; big; small; up; down; faster; slower, these are some words that we use every day to explain to our children what is happening and why. Toys mirror and enforce this understanding, building on a child’s curiosity.

Play is very important in a child’s learning and emotional development and provides a wide array of benefits. Play gives children fun and joy, play develops a child’s personality, helping them to realise their potential and experience the satisfaction of success. It opens them to creativity and imagination and helps develop speech, reading, thinking, problem solving and fine motor skills. Play is also integral to helping a child manage emotions; develop values and understand and interpret the world around them.

Due to each child’s differing speed of development, the needs of each child will vary greatly. One child may want to play the same game again and again, while another may get bored after a few minutes and want to move on to something else. Therefore play, both at home and at school should not be too structured. Children need the freedom to change the course of their activity and develop independence in thought and ideas. Toys play an integral part in this learning process and a variety of well chosen toys help towards each child’s individual development.

As children grow and develop, their needs will change with their age and with their differing abilities and interests. Babies and infants need soft colourful objects to see and touch, toys that are sensory in nature to stimulate their sight, touch and hearing. As a babies sight is not fully developed until they are around 6 months old, strong contrasting colours help to distinguish between patterns and objects. Babies and young children need toys that they can easily grip; they are just beginning to learn hand to eye co-ordination, so they need toys that are colourful and so encourage a child to reach out and take hold. Relevant toys for babies include mobiles, soft books that are bright and interactive, toys that encourage an action, for example lift the flap books and squeaky toys, rattles and so on.

As a child starts to grow into toddler-hood they begin to learn how to manipulate objects and how different things fit together. Their hand to eye co-ordination becomes more controlled and this mastery in fine motor skills plays a vital role in overall physical development. Toys that can be beneficial include puzzles and building blocks and ‘slotting’ toys. The attention span of a toddler is though small, therefore they do need variety; with enough variety children experience enjoyment and achieve mastery and satisfaction in their abilities.

Most children from around the ages of 2 or 3 enjoy role playing or creative play. This can be either a solitary game or a group activity. Girls in particular enjoy dressing up, while both girls and boys enjoy transforming themselves and objects into make-believe. This type of play develops a child’s imagination, language skills, social skills and emotional behaviour. Beneficial toys can include teddies and dolls, dressing up outfits, arts and craft materials, and any objects or toys that mimic the environment within the child’s imagination. By the time a child reaches 4 or 5 years old play becomes more cognitive. This type of play involves thinking skills, problem solving, decision making and creativity. Examples of cognitive play are arts and crafts, Lego, building blocks, construction toys and puzzles. Cognitive play continues throughout a child’s early development but becomes less prevalent as a child becomes more involved with group activities and games after entering school.

As children reach school age creative play and cognitive play become less important and games with rules become more dominant. At this stage children also prefer to play more within a group and less as individuals. Nurturing a child socially and emotionally is as important as nurturing a child intellectually. By encouraging children to make friends and share, they will become confident, independent and thoughtful of others. Examples of popular games include board games, ball games, chasing/racing games, skipping, hop-scotch and so on. Through these games children learn co-operation, emotional control, logical thinking, and creativity. As children grow older group games still play an important part in a child’s recreational time, but take on the form of sports, ball games and board and card games.

Older children start to also enjoy solitary pursuits, and here a child can be encouraged to be creative with science kits and discovery kits. All children possess an innate imagination and are naturally curious. A child’s play should never be structured; the freedom of ideas is in itself a quality to nurture, yet as parents and teachers we can guide children in their activities by providing them with a selection of carefully chosen toys.

A child’s play provides the foundations towards learning and school success. It lays the groundwork for language, reading, mathematical, scientific and physical skills. And perhaps more importantly helps children in their social and emotional development.

  • Susanna Daniel, taught primary and ESL to children for 15 years. She now runs an online Internet business;
  • ‘Smart Start Toys’, selling toys to both individuals and schools, chosen for their quality, durability and educational value.
  • Contact: enquiries@smartstart-toys.co.uk
  • Click on the logo to visit the website:

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